Tag Archives: writing quotes

Some thoughts for Monday

“Chew your way into a new world.
Munch leaves. Molt. Rest. Molt
again. Self-reinvention is everything.”
– Amy Gerstler, ‘Advice from a Caterpillar’
“I like to hear and smell the countryside, the land my characters inhabit. I don’t want these characters to step off the page, I want them to step out of the landscape.”
– Peter Matthiessen
“What crazies we writers are, our heads full of language like buckets of minnows standing in the moonlight on a dock.”
– Flannery O’Connor
“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”
– Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale
“Poetry is my love, my postmark, my hands, my kitchen, my face.”

– Anne Sexton
“Writing is finally a series of permissions you give to yourself to be expressive in certain ways. To leap. To fly. To fail.”
– Susan Sontag
“Work with all your intelligence and love. Work freely and rollickingly as though talking to a friend who loves you. Mentally (at least three or four times a day) thumb your nose at the know-it-alls, jeerers, critics, doubters.”
– Brenda Ueland
“I learned that when writing you should not feel like Lord Byron on a mountaintop, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten – happy, absorbed, and quietly putting one bead on after another.”
– Brenda Ueland
“Each morning my characters greet me with misty faces willing, though chilled, to muster for another day’s progress through the dazzling quicksand, the marsh of blank paper.”
– John Updike
“We put on our stories before our clothes …”
– William Wenthe

Some thoughts for Friday

“How strange and wonderful is our home, our earth, with its swirling vaporous atmosphere, its flowing and frozen liquids, its trembling plants, its creeping, crawling, climbing creatures, the croaking things with wings that hang on rocks and soar through the fog, the furry grass, the scaly seas.”
– Edward Abbey
“We all need the waters of the Mercy River. Though they don’t run deep, there’s usually enough, just enough, for the extravagance of our lives.”
– Jonis Agee
“Be brave. Write what you want to write. Don’t think too much about success and recognition in terms of external acknowledgement. Just work and study and work to make the best poems you can make.”
– Ellen Bass
“I ate them like salad, books were my sandwich for lunch, my tiffin and dinner and midnight munch. I tore out the pages, ate them with salt, doused them with relish, gnawed on the bindings, turned the chapters with my tongue! Books by the dozen, the score and the billion. I carried so many home I was hunchbacked for years. Philosophy, art history, politics, social science, the poem, the essay, the grandiose play, you name ’em. I ate ’em.”
– Ray Bradbury
“In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven’t Read, which are frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you … And thus you pass the outer girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered. With a rapid manoeuvre you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of the Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered, the Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback, Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too.”
– Italo Calvino
“I live and breathe tales, and thus I am a story myself, or rather a narrative like a flowing and living river. The tales from my childhood opened my eyes to a realm of imagination.”
– Da Chen
“I hadn’t been there by daylight before and my bibliophile heart had lifted at the sight of those tall glass cabinets, shelf over shelf of finely bound volumes, each of them a door on the possible. The air was still as a church in there, the rainy light playing through the leaded windows with their view across the parkland and the lake. It was a dream-chamber, redolent of leather and polish and the scented dust of books.”
– Lindsay Clarke
“Whereas story is processed in the mind in a straightforward manner, poetry bypasses rational thought and goes straight to the limbic system and lights it up like a brushfire. It’s the crack cocaine of the literary world.”
– Jasper Fforde
“And as you sit on the hillside, or lie prone under the trees of the forest, or sprawl wet-legged on the shingly beach of a mountain stream, the great door, that does not look like a door, opens.”
– Stephen Graham
“Being a poet is like having an invisible partner. It isn’t easy. But you can’t live without it either. Talent is only 10 per cent. The rest is obsession.”
– Selima Hill
“A short story is a different thing all together – a short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger.”
– Stephen King
“The best research gets your fingers dusty and your shoes dirty, especially because a novel is made of details. I had to translate places through my senses into the senses of my readers. I had to know what a place smelled like, what it sounded like …”
– Barbara Kingsolver
“As you read a book word by word and page by page, you participate in its creation, just as a cellist playing a Bach suite participates, note by note, in the creation, the coming-to-be, the existence, of the music. And, as you read and re-read, the book of course participates in the creation of you, your thoughts and feelings, the size and temper of your soul.”
– Ursula K. Le Guin
“The mind I love must have wild places, a tangled orchard where dark damsons drop in the heavy grass, an overgrown little wood, the chance of a snake or two, a pool that nobody’s fathomed the depth of, and paths threaded with flowers planted by the mind.”
– Katherine Mansfield
“Poetry, whether it is a free verse howl, cyclonic pantoum, nuclear sonnet or double-barrelled sporophyll disguised as a prose poem, has this one quality about it: it is alive. It spits, sputters, spins. It ambles forward angry and confused chased by frightened villagers. It breaches in the ocean a thunderous hulk white and marvellous … It knocks its beak against the skull of the reader.”
– John Olson
“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.”
– Anna Quindlen
“The religion of the short poem, in every age and in every literature, has a single commandment: Less is always more. The short poem rejects preamble and summary. It’s about all and everything, the metaphysics of a few words surrounded by much silence. …The short poem is a match flaring up in a dark universe.”
– Charles Simic
“Story-telling was a well-respected art. There was no television at the hacienda … Stories were told and handed on, gathering momentum and detail like barnacles on a ship’s hull as they passed from mouth to mouth.”
– Lisa St Aubin de Terán
“How many of us are able to distinguish between the odours of noon and midnight, or of winter and summer, or of a windy spell and a still one? If man is so generally less happy in the cities than in the country, it is because all these variations and nuances of smell and sand are less clearly marked and lost in the general monotony of gray walls and cement pavements.”
– Lin Yutang
“Once, in my father’s bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a place in our memory to which, sooner or later – no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget – we will return.”
– Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Some thoughts for Wednesday

“The world is filled with stories impressed on people’s hearts. We have only to speak out to set the stories free. Like smoke from burning candles, stories rise up. In the vast collective unconscious, stories amass; they bump against each other, calling out to us.”
– Sandra Benítez
“A voice can use a thousand words or half a dozen. The story is what we carry with us, at the deepest level.”
– Alice Hoffman
“If you remember listening to stories as a child, you will remember the pleasure of hearing a story many times, and you will remember that while you were listening you became three people. There is an incredible fusion: you become the storyteller, the protagonist, and you remember yourself listening to the story …”
– John Berger
“Make art, make friends. Be in awe of books as objects, as intelligences.”
– Valerie Cornell
“Literature offers us all, writers and readers, the best method of discovering and retelling the changing story of ourselves. The story is both journey and surprise. And as everyone knows, even the past is altered, depending on, not the facts, but the interpretation.”
– Jeanette Winterson
“Poetry is a form of magic, because it tries to change the way we perceive the world, that is to say that it aims to make the texture of our perception malleable. It does so by surreptitious and devious means, by seeding and planting things in the memory and imagination of the reader with such force and insidious originality that they cannot be deprogrammed. What you remember changes how you think.”
– Don Paterson
“There are so many rules about how to write poetry that there might as well not be any at all. Poetry moves words around. It rearranges them from their conventions. It re-sorts them. It uses more than one language. It repeats. It pursues a conventional language and divergent typography. It often experiments. It can be ephemeral and occasional. It often uses pleasing patterns as it does all this. And all that helps me think.”
– Juliana Spahr
“There is phenomenal beauty in the language developed for a particular field – whether it’s architecture, dentistry, tree pruning, or accounting … immersion in the language and concerns of any profession can unveil rich sounds and provide a new lens through which the world can be seen.”
– Elizabeth Bradfield
“Exploration results in discovery. It is for the sake of that discovery about the always fresh, shocking, extraordinary nature of the world and our consciousness of it, that we read and make poetry.”
– George Szirtes
“We have to help keep even the writers who do get published alive, very, very often. This is very important if you have read something that means something to you, send a postcard to that writer! You have no idea how essential that is. And write thanking the publishers for the book.”
– Tillie Olsen
“Like stand-up comedians, most poets hunger for approval. When I was in the first grade, I read Goldilocks and the Three Bears aloud to our class. Miss Howe, our teacher, gave me a big hug after my reading. That hug was decisive. It is still in the air as I write this, and I return it with thanks to those who love language and reading and who encourage writing and its writers.”
– Marilyn Kallet
“I want a poetry which is made of compression, passion, precision, symmetry, & disruption.”
– Lucie Brock-Broido
“Listen to the soundtracks of Giorgio Moroder. Visit the Rubin Museum of Art. Open to any page of The Mariner’s Dictionary. Sit in churches that watch over cities. Stand in trains that run under rivers … Read Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary and feel encouraged by the fact that a genius worried about bad reviews. Read Pliny the Elder’s Natural History and learn than after lightning strikes, the immediate area of the wound is colder than the rest of the body.”
– Leni Zumas
“Punctuation marks beg for the sanity of not going forward, of resting, of secrecy, surprise, exaggeration, saying something inside of saying something, elevating words or lowering them. Mostly they are instructors in silence.”
– Brenda Hillman
“Poetry is tribal, not material. As such it lights the fire and keeps watch over the flame. Believe me, this is where you get warm again. And naked. This is where you can remember the good times along with the worst; where you are not allowed to forget the worst, else you cannot be healed. This is where your memory must be exacting …”
– C D Wright
“Certainly I have made discoveries when I struggle to become other people, both historical figures and common men and women. Unless Protestants become Catholic, and Catholics become Protestant, unless kings become servants, unless men become women – unless we switch empathetically, until we give up all the chains of egoism and release ourselves imaginatively into something else, I don’t think we’ll discover our full potential as people.”
– Brendan Kennelly
“The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized. This is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are – until the poem – nameless and formless, about to be birthed, but already felt.”
– Audre Lorde
“A studio, like a poem, is an intimacy and a freedom you can look out from, into each part of your life and a little beyond.”
– Jane Hirshfield
“I think I am probably in love with silence, that other world. And that I write, in some way, to negotiate seriously with it.”
– Jorie Graham

Julia Copus on writing poems

“Writing poems is a bit like panning for gold. You have to be prepared to sit for a long while in the cold murk of the river-bed and grow heavy with alluvial dust for the sake of the gold it contains.”
– Julia Copus, New Blood (Bloodaxe Books, 1999)

Vona Groarke on writing

“When I write, it’s like running my hand over a length of cloth, picking out patterns, testing the give, rubbing the fabric between thumb and forefinger to feel out the texture and the flaws.”
– Vona Groarke, Modern Women Poets (Bloodaxe, 2005)

Jane Hirshfield on not writing

“Any time I’m not writing (which of course means most of the time) finding my way to a new poem feels entirely impossible. There have been many times in my life when I’ve gone months without writing. This happens frequently enough that I’ve come to think of them as necessary fallows, from which I often emerge with an altered set of poetic energies.”
– Jane Hirshfield, MiPoesias interview (2005)

Writing as Ritual

“An act of will that changed my life from that of a frustrated artist, waiting to have a room of my own and an independent income before getting down to business, to that of a working writer: I decided to get up two hours before my usual time, to set my alarm for 5:00 A.M. … Since that first morning in 1978 when I rose in the dark to find myself in a room of my own –  with two hours belonging only to me ahead of me, two prime hours when my mind was still filtering my dreams – I have not made or accepted too many excuses for not writing. This apparently ordinary choice, to get up early and to work every day, forced me to come to terms with the discipline of art.”
– Judith Ortiz Cofer, ‘5.00 A.M.: Writing as Ritual’

A S Byatt

“Now and then there are readings which make the hairs on the neck, the non-existent pelt, stand on end and tremble, when every word burns and shines hard and clear and infinite and exact, like stones of fire, like points of stars in the dark …”
– A S Byatt, Possession

Charles Péguy

“A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.”
– Charles Péguy

Bob Hicok

“I don’t think about “my” audience … I don’t know how anyone could write with a group of people in mind.  It’s difficult enough to rummage around in my own head, let alone estimate how my words will enter another life.  Writers should be good at sensing where readers will be more or less confused, angry, emotionally or intellectually involved, in evaluating the content of their writing in general terms.  But to think about readers while writing is to invite the hypothetical into the process in a way that stops me from being open to the actual, to myself.”
– Bob Hicok